Celebration of Women and the Steelpan Art Form

Tribute To Women In Pan

 

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Meet Syanne Fleming - New York, USA

“For me personally, I am most proud of throwing myself into learning a new Pan (cello) when I first began playing with PESO, and I am still currently playing it and loving it. When it comes to the Pan community, I am most proud of the continuous striving to be better as an entire community.” 

Through pan, dance and awareness of the power of culture, Syanne Fleming lives experiences of performing arts in a very real, tangible, transformative and sometimes completely unexpected, magnificent way. She understands that the life of her community is intrinsically connected and totally encompasses the emotional and intellectual well-being of the people.   In an exclusive interview with When Steel Talks Syanne Fleming shares her love for the arts and culture, the steelpan instrument, its music, the art form and more.

A When Steel Talks Exclusive

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WST - “Tell us about Syanne Fleming?”

Syanne F. - “My name is Syanne Fleming and I am currently a Junior at the University of Bridgeport, double majoring in Human Services and Psychology. I have also studied multiple styles of dance, and have been a dance teacher on and off for about 5 years now.”


WST - “How were you introduced to the steelpan instrument; what pan do you play?”

Syanne F. - “I was first introduced to Pan while in elementary school, and played guitar for 2 years. I actually didn’t touch another pan until I was about 14 years old, when I began playing for Metro Steel Orchestra.”


WST - “What is it about the steelpan that attracts you so?”

Syanne F. - “I have always been interested in other cultures, and the different things that actually bring a culture together, so when I got the opportunity to actually play Pan again and learn more I went for it.”


Syanne Fleming with Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra
Syanne Fleming with Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra

WST - “How long have you been playing?”

Syanne F. - “I have only been playing Pan within the larger pan community since 2012, so in June it will make exactly 7 years.”


WST - “Do you play any other instruments?”

Syanne F. - “The only other instrument that I do play is the African Dunun, but that is only when I am dancing.”


WST - “Does anyone else in your family play Pan; and what do they think about your involvement with the steelband art form?”

Syanne Fleming with Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra
Syanne Fleming with Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra

Syanne F. - “My youngest sister actually just started playing Pan. As for anyone else, they do not play. My parents are very supportive when it comes to playing Pan. They try to come out and support as much as they can.”


WST - “How do they relate to the long hours of practice?”

Syanne F. - “For my parents, they don’t really complain and it isn’t really anything new to them, because when I have huge performances for dance, my rehearsal hours do get pretty extensive.”


WST - “What do your friends think about the steelpan being one of your instruments of choice?”

Syanne F. - “Some of my friends actually played with me while I was with Metro, and last year they actually came out and played with PESO (Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra) for Junior Panorama. They are involved, and enjoy it as much as I do.”


WST - “As a woman in Pan, have you ever been discouraged from being involved in the art form?”

Syanne F. - “I have actually never been discouraged. From the two bands that I have been with, my bandmates both male and female were very supportive. We work together to make each other as best as possible, and to make sure that everyone is comfortable within the bands’ environment.”


WST - “You are an integral part of Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra (PESO); talk about your overall involvement with the orchestra?”

Syanne F. - “Overall, I am pretty involved. I am apart of the uniform committee, as well as being a part of planning the events that we have throughout the year.”


Syanne Fleming with Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra at the ‘Pan Is Sweet 2018’ concert
Syanne Fleming (top) with Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra at the ‘Pan Is Sweet 2018’ concert

WST - “Some people are still vague about the steelpan instrument, what it is, and far less, the concept of a full-size Panorama steel orchestra. Are there still times you encounter people to whom you have to explain the steel band art form?”

Syanne F. - “I definitely come across people that don’t really understand Pan or the culture behind it. I usually tell individuals to not be afraid to listen to something new, and use all your resources if you really wanted to know about the instrument as a whole.”


WST - “What advice would you give to young girls and women who are part of Brooklyn’s present-day steel band community?”

Syanne F. - “My biggest thing is to HAVE FUN! If you aren’t having fun then you are doing it all wrong, young ladies! Be ambitious, be determined, and just enjoy yourself, and the beautiful music.”


WST - “What is Panorama to you?”

Syanne F. - “Panorama to me is where all bands come out, and show out. Bring their best, and to share with the community all of the talent that we have surrounding us. Panorama is a way to connect the community to the culture.”


WST - “Who is your favorite arranger and why?”

Syanne F. - “I don’t think I can really pick a favorite, but if I had to it would be André White. No, not because I play with Pan Evolution, but because overall the way he comes up with his music, the way he lives to understand, and to keep going and just looks from a wholeeeeee different angle is really insane; and for me that separates him from others.”


WST - “What are your favorite songs? What types of music do you enjoy playing on pan?”

Syanne F. - “I don’t really have favorite songs, I really just go based off of my mood. When it comes to playing on Pan, I enjoy playing soca because it really entertains the crowd.”


WST - “What is the greatest challenge facing this current generation of steelband musicians from your perspective, that of a player/performing artist?”

Syanne F. - “I believe the biggest challenge for the current generation is the lack of opportunity for something new. I get that we enjoy listening to arrangers that have been arranging for years, but we also have to focus on the upcoming generation because we need to keep Pan alive, and without the newer generation learning from others who have been doing it for so long, we can risk Pan dying down as a whole.”

Syanne Fleming with Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra at the ‘Pan Is Sweet 2018’ concert
Syanne Fleming with Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra at the ‘Pan Is Sweet 2018’ concert

WST - “What is the greatest challenge facing this current generation of steel orchestras - specifically in New York?”

Syanne F. - “I believe the biggest challenge specifically in New York is finding players. I feel that we don’t have a wide variety of players, and it is complicated to fill out a band comes competition time.”


WST - “What keeps your passion for the instrument, the music and culture going?”

Syanne F. - “I think my passion comes from wanting to learn so much more of the culture. I am personally not from a Caribbean background, and I find this culture very interesting. Overall, I haven’t found a vibe like this in any other art forms besides pan and dance.”


WST - “If you had the power to change something in Pan immediately what would that be?”

Syanne F. - “If I had the power to change anything about Pan immediately it would be the mindsets of bands. I would say that there is way more to Pan that just competition, and who is the best. Instead we should be working to make Pan a more known instrument. We should be worried about getting bands on the road and touring so that others can see what Pan brings.”


WST - “What have you been most proud about as it relates to Pan?”

Syanne F. - “For me personally, I am most proud of throwing myself into learning a new Pan (cello) when I first began playing with PESO, and I am still currently playing it and loving it. When it comes to the Pan community, I am most proud of the continuous striving to be better as an entire community.”


WST - “What disappoints you the most relative to the steelband movement?”

Syanne F. - “What disappoints me the most would be the overall organization when it comes to the steelband movement. We have to work together; doesn’t matter what band we are from if we all believe that Pan can be taken to a whole other level. We need to understand that we cannot do that without everyone working together.”


WST - “Do you believe women are finally getting the acknowledgment and opportunities they deserve in the art form?”

Syanne F. - “Of course! Woman are doing their thing when it comes to Pan. I think we are all on the same page, male or female, and I believe that it is being shown when we look around and women are all throughout every section, and even on boards that are working towards advancing the Pan community.”

Syanne Fleming with fellow Pan Evolution panists
Syanne Fleming (second from right) with fellow Pan Evolution panists

WST - “What would be your advice to the thousands of young female panists all over the world who are dreaming of becoming involved with the steelpan instrument as a career move?”

Syanne F. - “Girl! Go for it, and when you go for it go all in! You will never know how far you will make it unless you try.”


WST - “Is Panorama a curse or blessing from your perspective?”

Syanne F. - “I believe Panorama can be a little bit of both. It definitely is a blessing because it brings the Pan community, and the outside community together. On the other hand, it kinds of separates us and can cause a little tension because some just think about it as a competition.”


WST - “You stole the show at the 2018 Pan Is Sweet competition with your dance/cheerleading. Is dance also a major part of your interest?”

Syanne F. - “Dance has definitely been a huge part of my life. At this point in my life, I have been dancing for 12 years. In all honesty, Dance has made me into the individual I am today. It helped me understand that communication comes in all forms, and I absolutely love it. I have been a part of amazing performances, given great opportunities such as performing at the Apollo theatre, and recently was able to tour with Cirque Zuma Zuma.”


WST - “What is your vision for the steelpan instrument, the art form?”

Syanne F. - “My vision for steelpan is to rise to the highest heights, for steelpan to be more respected, and for it to be used so often that it is recognized as other instruments. This instrument is unique, and the world should accept it.”


WST - “Are there any other steelband-related matters you would like to bring forward? ”

Syanne F. - “No, I think it was well covered.”



 
   Syanne Fleming performing with Pan Evolution Steel Orchestra at the ‘Pan Is Sweet 2018’ concert




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